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VIDEO: What did they really look like? Roman boats rendered in realistic 3D

PortandTerminal.com, June 25, 2020

A team of researchers from Italy and France has made realistic 3D reconstructions of three wooden boats from the ancient Roman port of Ostia.

ROME – The Port of Ostia Antica was founded at the mouth of the Tiber in the 7th century BC by King Ancus Marciusto to protect Rome from attacks coming via the sea.

Today the ancient port of Ostia sits almost 2 miles away from the sea. Like many ports from ancient times, without the benefit of modern dredging, it eventually silted up and was rendered useless.

The Port of Ostia

Loading cargo onto a vessel

In its heyday, the Port of Ostia had three duties to fulfil. Give Rome an outlet to the sea, ensure its supply of wheat and salt, and prevent an enemy fleet to ascend the Tiber.

Population estimates of Rome in ancient times vary with some as high as 1 million inhabitants. Efficiently supplying that number of people with food and other essentials was critical to the continued existence of the empire. Ostia Antica, like many ports in the world to this day, played a critical but sometimes overlooked role in keeping society afloat.

Discovery of wooden ships

In the 1950s, archaeologists discovered the remains of several wooden ships at the site of Ostia. Discoveries of this type amazingly still happen from time-to-time even to this day. We reported on a similar discovery of a Roman boat made in Serbia last April.

“These boats were in use between the 2nd and early 5th centuries CE,” said Dr. Giulia Boetto, a researcher in the Camille Jullian Centre at the Aix-Marseille Université and CNRS, and colleagues.

“They were abandoned in the port when they became outdated. They then became waterlogged and covered with a layer of sediment.”

“These oxygen-free conditions enabled the boats to survive until they were excavated, almost 60 years ago.”

Dr. Boetto, Camille Jullian Centre’s Dr. Pierre Poveda and Dr. Daniela Peloso from the French start-up Ipso Facto created 3D models of three boat types — a fishing boat, a small sailboat and a harbor lighter — found at Ostia.

“These 3D reconstructions will be housed at the new Roman Ship Museum in the Archaeological Park of Ancient Ostia,” they said.

“This exhibition will enable visitors to discover ancient boat construction techniques and what life was like on board these Roman vessels. It will also allow them to virtually navigate in what was the most important Mediterranean port complex during the Roman Empire.”

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